White House

White House plays more defense amid backlash to Trump's immigration order

Spicer: President will always put safety & prosperity of country first

The White House on Monday continued to defend its controversial executive order related to travel from seven Muslim-majority countries and downplayed concerns it will make the United States less safe.

After a weekend of confusion at airports and protests across the country, White House spokesman Sean Spicer fielded numerous questions about President Donald Trump's order, maintaining that Trump signed it to secure the country. He also downplayed the detention of travelers at U.S. airports, arguing that they were "temporarily inconvenienced for the safety of us all."

"I think the president's No. 1 goal is the protection and safety of the United States and its people," Spicer said.

The order indefinitely bars Syrian refugees from entering the country. It also suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocks all citizens of the seven largely Muslim countries from entering for 90 days.

Many Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans have criticized the White House for the planning and application of the order, as some lawful visa holders were detained coming into the United States. Others have argued it will prove counterproductive in the fight against terrorism, saying it will send a message that the U.S. does not accept Muslims.

Spicer did not directly answer a question about critics, including lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, arguing that the order would play into terrorist rhetoric and make the U.S. less safe. He contended that some people may not have "read exactly what the order said and are reading it through misguided media reports."

The press secretary said that 109 people out of the 325,000 travelers who entered the country on the first day of the order were detained. He did not say how many people were affected since.

"I'm sorry that some folks may have had to wait a little while," Spicer said.

Trump cited the same statistic in a tweet defending the travel order on Monday morning. He instead blamed a Delta Air Lines computer problem, protesters and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for the problems at airports.

A judge blocked part of Trump's order late Saturday, preventing the U.S. from deporting people with valid visas or who are legally authorized to enter the country. The White House and Department of Homeland Security, however, have said the order remains in full force.

Some of the criticism of the order has focused on what appeared to be its quick application. One report indicated that the DHS secretary only found out about it as Trump signed it.

Spicer maintained that "all appropriate agencies and individuals that needed to be a part of the process were."

Spicer: Getting ahead of threats is the key